Endangering childhood under the guise of education
As a liberated woman and a soon-to-be grandmother, I must admit that the idea of a nursing – as in suckling at the breast – doll sends my hormones raging. My levels of testosterone, oxytocin, oestrogen and progesterone (fight or flight hormones) must have been off the charts this morning as I read the Associated Press article detailing “The Breast Milk Baby” doll.
Beginning almost from the moment of birth, my husband (a doctor) and I tried to always speak openly and honestly to our children about all aspects of life – creation, development, human sexuality – you name it, no matter how embarrassed we might have felt, we answered their questions directly and honestly. Since my husband’s office was in our home, our kids were exposed to lots of charts, graphs and detailed figures of the human body. In fact, the first puzzle my son and daughter ever played with was a three dimensional plastic model of a pregnant female.
Together we sat on the floor and took the model apart, naming all the anatomical features and discussing how they were important. Both of our children knew what an umbilical cord was before either knew how to jump rope. Why then does the thought of a little girl going through the motions of breast feeding give me the creeps? Because it’s creepy!
Honest answers to child’s questions about life and death are tantamount to raising happy, healthy well-adjusted kids, but the answers have to befit the age of the child… just enough details to satisfy curiosity without scaring the hell out of them. It isn’t appropriate to discuss the act of intercourse in detail with a five-year-old. Kids are fine tuned to react to the words they hear. Try to imagine how a vivid description of sex must seem in their fragile minds.
Getting back to the doll… The Breast Milk Baby comes complete with a breast/nipples halter top, which children wear while holding the doll. The halter top is fitted with sensors, which mimic the sounds of suckling when the doll is held against one of the nipples. Ingenious? Yes. Educational? Maybe. Necessary? No!
Truthfully, any mother who has breast fed will tell you that it’s a marvelous bonding experience. When my daughter was born, my son, then three, would sit next to me on the sofa and talk to his sister. He knew the baby was eating. He had already seen lots of videos of animals feeding from their mothers. We had visited the zoo. We had read books. He had all the information he needed.
If you are determined that your child “experience” the beauty of breast feeding and you do not have an infant in the house, ask a family member or good friend who has recently given birth if you can visit during mealtime. Talk to your pediatrician. He/she will probably know a new mother willing to host a session of Show and Tell. If you are desperate, there is always the woman breast feeding at the local mall. Shy they’re not.
When shopping for the holidays, leave The Breast Milk Baby doll on the shelf. Take Betsy Wetsy home with you. That’s all the reality needed. Let’s let our kids enjoy their childhoods for just a bit longer.